Damian Lillard has been known as a cerebral player throughout his three-year NBA career, but there has seemed to be a moment recently that the Portland Trail Blazers point guard was overtaken by his emotions.
And that appears to have affected Lillard’s -- and his reeling team's -- play over a stretch of games.
Perhaps sensing that his uneven demeanor about not being selected as a Western Conference reserve for the All-Star team was dragging him and his team down, Lillard returned to more easygoing ways in helping the Trail Blazers pull out a 103-102 home victory over Utah on Tuesday night.
It also helped that Lillard and Portland got back center Robin Lopez, who had missed 23 games recovering from a fractured right hand.
The Blazers had lost three consecutive games and five of their last six games.
During that stretch, Lillard had found out he wasn’t picked by the NBA coaches to be a reserve all-star, and he wasn’t happy.
His play seemed to suffer, and it looked like trying to prove he belonged was weighing Lillard down.
During a four-game stretch, he shot 38.5% from the field and 33.3% from three-point range in a win over Washington; 21.1% from the field and 30% from three-point range in a loss to Cleveland; 30% from the field and 11.1% from three-point range in a loss to Atlanta; and 31.6% from the field and 10% from three-point range in a loss to Milwaukee.
But in Portland’s win over the Jazz, Lillard was back.
He scored 25 points on 10-for-17 shooting (58.8%), and though he missed all six of his three-pointers, he filled up the stat sheet with four rebounds, six assists, two steals and just one turnover in 37 minutes.
For the Trail Blazers to have success this season, they’ll need the cerebral Lillard playing up to his standards.